Primary Projects: Defining and Redefining Miami Street Art

Courtesy of Primary Projects

With Primary Flight and Primary Projects, one group of artists typifies a movement.

Books” Bischof, “Typoe” Gran, and Cristina Gonzalez are the most Miami of street artists. In part, that’s because in 2007, they created Miami street art’s most visible manifestation: Primary Flight, the rigorously curated, grass-roots answer to Art Basel. It turned the barren warehouses of post-industrial Wynwood into an ever-changing series of exultant murals, inspired Tony Goldman’s now-famous Wynwood Walls, and spawned the development boom that followed. With a couple hundred cans of paint, three self-described “street kids” initiated a wasteland’s radical rebirth, and the reemergence of street art on the art-world stage.

In truth, however, Books and Typoe are emblematic of Miami because now they aren’t street artists at all. Embodiments of that potent South Florida synergy of creativity and commerce, they left Wynwood and graffiti to found Primary Projects, a downtown space that promotes rising contemporary artists like Kenton Parker and Autumn Casey, genuine kids who manifest a street attitude, but not a street style—and not at street prices. Their crew now includes Marty Margulies; they partner with the Cisneros Foundation; they sell pieces for upwards of $65,000.

They still think street art is the most vital of contemporary expressions, but Typoe calls it a young man’s game. “I got a home and a wife,” Books says. “I’m not trying to go to jail for writing my name on a wall.” Instead, he, Typoe, and Gonzalez have taken the hallmarks of the genre—vitality, rawness, self-promotion—and excised its anti-authority streak. They haven’t quite made it safe, but they’ve made it profitable. They don’t, Books says, need spray paint to get up anymore, because they can get their names in magazines. They don’t need to stick it to the man, because the man is paying thousands for their artists’ work. It’s not entirely clear who’s co-opted whom; but if the primary aim of graffiti is to be noticed, Books and Typoe may still be street after all.

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